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Great Yarmouth MP investigated over £10,000 payout

PUBLISHED: 17:15 26 March 2010 | UPDATED: 16:53 06 July 2010

Great Yarmouth MP Tony Wright

Great Yarmouth MP Tony Wright

Great Yarmouth MP Tony Wright has referred himself to an investigation over a £10,000 payout from the owners of his former London flat.

A Norfolk MP has referred himself to a committee of MPs over a £10,000 payout from the owners of his former London flat - as Conservatives in the borough press for a fuller independent investigation.

Tony Wright, MP for Great Yarmouth, has asked the House of Commons standards and privileges committee to look at the payment he received prior to a rent increase at the apartment block at which he used to live.

However, the committee cannot investigate MPs and in a separate move, Barry Stone chairman of the Great Yarmouth Conservative Association has written to John Lyon, parliamentary commissioner for standards, who can investigate, calling on him to look in to it.

Mr Wright's self-referral follows a ruling by Mr Lyon that a group of Liberal Democrat MPs had broken Commons rules by accepting the cash from the block's owner.

They have been forced to apologise and pay back some of the cash following the ruling.

Mr Wright had previously justified keeping the cash as it was not taxpayers' money and was given by the American property company which owns the flats.

But Mr Stone said while he welcomed the Labour MP's actions, a fuller investigation was needed.

"The fact he has referred himself is a step in the right direction, but it doesn't go far enough," Mr Stone said. "What I am seeking is that it is investigated by John Lyon," Mr Stone said.

Rent for Mr Wright's apartment at Dolphin Square in central London was paid for by the taxpayer as part of the MPs' second home allowance. He has since left the flat and now stays in a hotel while in the capital.

At the time of the sale of the flats to a new owner in 2006, residents were offered lump sums if they moved out or stayed in the building and agreed to pay more rent.

Occupants, who had been paying below market rates, were offered different sums depending on how long they had lived there, with Mr Wright receiving £10,000.

Mr Wright said: "I have always stated that I never knowingly have done anything wrong and I stand by that statement. Therefore I have decided it is in the best interests of all that I commit to abiding by whatever decision is made by the committee when they have been made aware of the facts."

In 2007-08, Mr Wright claimed a total of £23,131 from running his second home and claims that overall he is good value for money as each of his constituents only pays 5p a week to fund all his activities.

In a letter to committee chairman Sir Malcolm Rifkind, Mr Wright said his decision to leave Dolphin Square has resulted in a £16,000 saving to the taxpayer.

He has asked to give evidence to the committee about the circumstances surrounding his surrender of the lease.

The issue was referred directly to Sir Malcolm rather than standards commissioner John Lyons to speed up a judgement, according to Mr Wright.

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